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Man on Probation in Denny Case Is Jailed : Courts: Antoine Miller pleads not guilty to gun possession. In separate hearing, a judge orders him locked up for violating terms of his sentence.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A man on probation for assaulting a motorist during the early hours of the Los Angeles riots pleaded not guilty Tuesday to a gun possession charge but was jailed when a judge found him in violation of his probation.

Antoine Miller, 22, faces a maximum six-year prison sentence if convicted of the charge of being an ex-felon in possession of a firearm, a Los Angeles County district attorney’s office spokesman said.

After pleading not guilty to the weapons charge Tuesday, Miller appeared before Superior Court Judge James Bascue, who revoked his probation in a separate hearing and ordered him held without bail.

Los Angeles police investigators said Miller was involved in an argument with two men who were in a car Aug. 21 near 71st Street and Normandie Avenue, just a block away from the intersection where trucker Reginald O. Denny and several other motorists were assaulted as rioting broke out two years ago.

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During the argument last week, Miller ran into a house, armed himself with a chrome-plated pistol, pointed the gun at the driver and tried to fire it when it jammed, investigators said.

Miller apparently had fired the gun several times before reaching the driver’s side of the car, police said.

Miller was arrested Friday--five days after the incident--when police searched a home where he was staying and recovered a 9-millimeter, semiautomatic pistol, police said.

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The case remains under investigation and Miller could face other charges, the district attorney’s spokesman said.

Although Miller was videotaped opening the door to Denny’s truck as it stopped at Florence and Normandie avenues, he was charged with attempted murder under a prosecution theory that he aided and abetted those who brutally beat the trucker.

Miller’s case was separated from that of Damian Monroe Williams and Henry Keith Watson. They were acquitted on the most serious charges stemming from the Denny beating. Williams was convicted of mayhem for hitting Denny in the head with a brick, and was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Watson was convicted of misdemeanor assault for placing his foot on Denny’s neck, but he received no jail time because the 17 months he had spent in jail awaiting trial was greater than the maximum penalty.

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Three weeks after verdicts were returned in Williams’ and Watson’s trial, Miller pleaded guilty to felonious assault and two misdemeanor charges in exchange for 27 months probation. He pleaded guilty to assault with a deadly weapon on Marisa Bejar for throwing a telephone book encased in metal at the car in which she was riding--opening a gash in her head and showering her 7-month-old child with shattered glass.

Miller also pleaded guilty to receiving motorist Alicia Maldonado’s stolen purse and to grand theft for taking a bag containing papers from Denny’s truck--both misdemeanors.

When he was sentenced in November, Superior Court Judge Cecil J. Mills told him: “You will be carrying the key to the penitentiary around in your pocket, young man.”

Miller received his first strike under California’s “three-strike” law in the felonious assault on Bejar, said Mike Botula, a spokesman for the district attorney’s office. If Miller is convicted on the weapons charge he faces, that would be his second strike, and the maximum penalty of three years would double, Botula said.

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